Thucydides' Sources and the Spartan Plan at Pylos

by Loren J. Samons II

Hesperia, Volume 75, Issue 4
Page(s): 525-540
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25068002
Year: 2006


Thucydides' account of the Spartan-Athenian conflict at Pylos contains topographical inaccuracies that demonstrate that the historian had not visited the site. Emendation is unwarranted, in part because the historian's erroneous account of the topography harmonizes with his account of the Spartans' plan to block the entrances to Navarino Bay. The actual topography, however, makes the reported plan impossible. The Spartans apparently intended to fight a naumachia with the Athenians inside the bay and therefore stationed hoplites on the island of Sphakteria. Thucydides' misconceptions stem from his failure to visit the site and his reliance on tendentious Peloponnesian sources.